That’s Not All Folks

From the Department of Getting it Off my Chest:

In last week’s Pitchfork panning of the Finches’ Human Like a House (which was the lead review until 8 am that morning, btw) reviewer Adam Moerder drops this preposterous thought:

However, like mom and pop stores or VHS cassettes, the Finches have trouble competing with 21st century innovations and trends, and
Human’s backward thinking, front-porch-rocking-chair charisma pales in comparison to more progressive folk contemporaries.

So we should shop at Wal-Mart and ignore obscure Godard flicks? Mr. Moerder’s logic is faulty, not to mention the fact that he’s ill-equipped in the knowledge department for this one review, since he (mentions that and) seems to think that ‘folk’ music includes Animal Collective and Joanna Newsom. I enjoy the latter two artists, but they’re indie rockers, and ok maybe even the silly genre ‘anti-folk’ (although what then, with prefix ‘anti,’ is what it’s not?) , but they’re not making the same genre music as the Finches, whose straightforward country-folk fits in with the sounds offered by adult-contemporary artists like John Prine or Nanci Griffith. Ask the latter two about Animal Collective, and they’ll say huh?

But let’s get back to the faulty logic. To scold a band for not experimenting with a genre (a genre they nevertheless do quite well with) — would also suddenly cast a darkroom light on plenty of acts I suspect Mr. Moerder might not find lacking – Ted Leo, for one, or Vashti Bunyan, or Sufjan Stevens, or Johnny Cash. Bob Dylan hasn’t experimented since 1966.

Au Revoir Simone is the new Wilson Phillips. And it sucks. Human Giant gets no further than Kids in the Hall. But it’s funny.

One trademark of my favorite reviewers is their ability to discern the artists’ goals and see if they’ve reached them. Or to recognize they had no goals. I also enjoy a reviewer who correctly puts a music in context, and better yet – contexts. In the oversaturated and now fashionable world of anti-folk — the new, new wave, by the way — where album after album arrives with wavering vocals, detuned distortionless guitars, and oodles of reverb, the Finches might actually be a jarring and welcome change of pace. Regardless of whether they do it well or not, it’s like Ted Leo amid post rockers (mostly does it well) or like Cansei Der Sexy amid dance music (mostly not).

It’s unfair to juxtapose retro and progressive art, whatever their genre. Otherwise, we’d need to cut down Wilco everytime, simply because they’re not the Boredoms (although … alright …).


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